Sweden Reconsiders Its Policies Towards Immigrants

The issues of immigration policy and asylum procedures in Sweden came into prominence this week as political parties offered new ideas on these topics. On Tuesday, Minister of Integration, Nyamko Sabuni of the Liberal Party, said she wanted classes for immigrants to assist them in becoming Swedish citizens while Social Democratic leader, Mona Sahlin suggested the State rather than individual immigrants should decide where in Sweden they would live. Sabuni hopes citizenship classes would help immgrants understand they were entering a contract with the Swedish nation and understood its basic values. Sahlin wanted to ease pressure on certain communities which are being impacted by heavy immigration into their areas.

Some critics such as Asa Peterson of Aftonbladet are concerned about the language of the contract which makes clear a citizen intends to participate in society and obey applicable laws and rules. No natural born Swedish citizen is expected to make such a pledge, why should immigrants? Other critics point out an important component of giving someone asylum in your nation is allowing them to decide where they will live.

As the child of immigrants who arrived in America lacking language skills, I find both proposals discriminatory. Immigrants who have made the long voyage for refuge in Sweden arrive with expectations they will participate in their new society. It may take several years before they master language and the nuances associated with any new land, but the vast majority will gain that knowledge. Sweden must trust the intelligence of its immigrant population.

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